The B2Bnn guide to search engine marketing

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You’ve heard of SEO, but there’s another form of digital marketing that businesses should use to their advantage: search engine marketing (SEM).

SEM combines nicely with SEO in a digital marketing campaign, although it is distinctly different. It’s quick and easy to set up, and you will have to shell out a few bucks to pay for the ads but it doesn’t have to be too expensive, especially at first when you’re just figuring out what works.

So, without further ado, here is the B2Bnn primer on search engine marketing.

What is SEM and how does it work?

Basically, SEM refers to paid ads in search engines. When you do a Google or Yahoo search you’ll notice there are always ads at the top of the search results and in the side bar, and these ads are relevant to whatever the search term is, and the ads are charged on a pay-per-click basis.

The paid ads direct users to landing pages which direct them further down the buyer’s journey. One of the great things about SEM is that you can monitor results in real time, and make the necessary adjustments as you do using the various tools that are available.

The keywords that you choose to bid on for your ads can vary in price depending on how competitive they are, and how likely they are to make a conversion. More expensive keywords are more likely to convert users whereas keywords that only cost a penny or five cents per click are much less competitive.

How to set up an SEM campaign

Google and Yahoo/Bing account for 73.1 percent and 26.3 percent of US search engine ad spend respectively in the second quarter of 2015, so those search engines make up almost 100 percent of all SEM ads. There are other companies out there, but Google and Yahoo/Bing are really the only ones worth considering.

You don’t need a website to set up an SEM campaign, and you can get everything set up in less than a day. One of the best ways is to use Google Adwords Express. It’s a simple tool that you can use to plan your budget, targeted locations, and bid on the keywords that should show results. Google also has a keyword planner which can help you decide on which ones to use.

Users don’t want to be bothered with ads that don’t seem relevant to their searches, and as a marketer you don’t want to spend budget dollars on ads that don’t convert users into customers.

Start small with just a few hundred dollars, and test out what works. As you make adjustments and tweak your SEM campaign as you go along, you can sharpen your focus more and more on what works and increase your budget.

Why should businesses use SEM?

Neil Patel, the founder of KISSmetrics and a respected expert in digital marketing, offers some insight into why businesses should use SEM.

Neil Patel
Neil Patel

“It’ll bring more visitors and customers to their website. It’s also a cheaper form of advertising than traditional media like print or TV, and on top of that you can get very narrow,” says Patel. “If I’m a business in Orange Country, California, I can target people who are just in that city.”

Patel also says that while SEO provides more of a long term, low cost ROI, SEM provides short term benefits although you will spend more up front.

SEO and SEM are two pillars on online marketing that B2B businesses might want to strengthen.

Tips and tricks for effective SEM campaigns

We also asked Patel for a few tips on how to get the most mileage out of an SEM campaign. He says, “Make sure your ads are really relevant to the keywords. You try to include the keywords in your ads and increase the click through ratio which will decrease your cost. Keep testing new variations.”

He adds: “Make sure the landing page you’re directing people to has one call to action, one main focus, don’t give them four or five options because then you’ll have less conversion, and try to keep that landing page really simple, clean, and to the point.”

The future of SEM

SEM allows you to target ads to specific users and locations, and Patel belies things are moving further in that direction.

“I think ads are going to become more personalized, and they already have been more geotargetted, but the real future, I think, is going to be in conversion optimization,” Patel says. “Ad costs will continue to rise, and companies need to fine-tune their websites to maximize conversion in order to continually spend more on ads.”

Main photo via decodedigitalmarketing

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David Silverberg
David Silverberg is the former editor-in-chief of Digital Journal Inc. He helped pioneer Digital Journal's proprietary technology to leverage content from writers from across the world. He was the host of Digital Journal's annual Future of Media event. David has been published in various publications, writing on everything from technology trends to celebrity profiles.